Exactly 20 years ago today, Hansie Cronje enthralled world cricket with his unorthodox and daring plan to conjure up a single innings shootout in the fifth Test between the Proteas and England in Centurion.
Following three consecutive days of washouts, the legendary and then disgraced South African captain seemingly shed his conservative image and manufactured a result.
I remember coming back from school on that Tuesday.
I had just started Grade 8 and, like a typically overdramatic teenager, felt so “out-of-touch” with my beloved sport because my life was suddenly so “busy” with orientation, groentjiekonsert (a traditional Grade 8 concert performed at the end of the first week of school) and athletics trials.
So imagine my shock when I turned on the telly and saw England actually chasing a target!
To be honest, I hated Hansie’s idea. I couldn’t care less about a result. Test cricket was about both teams batting twice.
And for some reason I also had a suspicion the Proteas would stuff up the result anyway.
Two-nil looks far more comprehensive on paper than 2-1.
But I got over it and eventually marvelled at Cronje’s ability to be adaptable. I can’t and won’t lie – like many others, I adored the man. I always wanted to play Hansie’s slog sweep (I couldn’t).
I always wanted to think about captaincy the way Hansie did.
Yet, as we’re now well aware of, Cronje’s motives were shockingly self-serving.
As the rain bucketed down at SuperSport Park, he was approached by a local bookmaker, Marlon Aronstam, who offered him R50,000 and a “gift” to manufacture the result.
With the benefit of 20 years of hindsight, one realises that the whole thing was probably too good to be true.
Even in my teenage years I had read that Cronje was a firm, conservative man who was probably too rigid to really flourish in SA’s new era of transformation.
It took various team-mates to later tell us in the open how he sometimes became a bit irrational in his will to win.
Could he really have changed his spots so quickly?
It turns out he didn’t.
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